My camping story begins with Inks Lake. This is where I learned to love camping as a child and it is where I returned to reunite myself with the great outdoors. Inks holds my childhood and my reunited love of camping. This park is my home. I returned here with my family for the first time just over three years ago after being away for more than 22 years. I wanted to share some of my favorite childhood memories with my daughters. I feared they would miss the computer, the TV, or one of the many other daily distractions, that I would hear the disappointing “I’m bored.” It never happened. Nature won them over.
Camping as an adult is different than camping as a child. As a child, we have no responsibilities, really, except to get out there and have fun. We contribute here and there, but by in large, the bulk of the work is done for us. As adults, we take on the tasks and try to learn and balance the fun with the work. I am beginning to suspect the key to this balance has something to do with being able to simplify. Simplifying is not my forte. I struggle with it constantly. Camping has a lot to teach me, though, and I am her willing, though not graceful, student.
Inks Lake is nestled in the heart of the Hill Country on the Colorado River in Burnet County located on the Highland Lakes Chain and is surrounded by granite hills. Inks Lake is one of five lakes on this chain along the Colorado River and is a constant level lake, so it is minimally affected by floods and drought.
We arrived Friday night. It was a chilly 32 degrees and rainy. Many of our friends thought we were crazy for going out in the cold, rainy weather, but we were eager to get out there and decided we would deal with whatever nature brought our way. We weren’t excited about the rain, but we had a nice, relaxing first day. We spent most of the day in the tent resting, playing games, and reading. I loved hearing the rain falling on the tent. Every now and then, it would stop raining and we would step out of the tent to take a look around. In the evening, it stopped raining long enough for us to build a fire and cook dinner.
Sunday morning was beautiful and we all knew exactly what we wanted to do first.
Life is better outside, but life is even better outside in a kayak. Some friends of ours loaned us their kayaks for the week and it was, by far, the highlight of the trip. I loved being out over the water. It was so peaceful and quiet, but exciting at the same time. We could go anywhere, adventure awaiting us at every turn. We traveled to new places and gained a different perspective of our favorite spots. The entire family is hooked.
I learned something about kayaking. When you are more than a mile away from your campsite, the wind is blowing directly toward you, and your shoulders are on fire, only one thing will help you…your niece singing “Just Around The Riverbend” at the top of her lungs.
Our friends came out for a day visit early in the week. We enjoyed a relaxing day hanging out together. The weather was warm enough for swimming and the girls enjoyed an hour on a paddle boat, but I think kayaking made the top of the list that day.
When we camp at Inks, the girls love to take a daily trip to the General Store. It’s a small, country store with friendly staff. Sometimes, we sit on the back porch and play checkers.
There are several beautiful hiking trails at Inks Lake. One of our favorite hikes leads to Devil’s Waterhole, a popular spot for swimming. It’s also a popular spot for cliff jumping.
Although Devil’s Waterhole is popular, our favorite place to swim lies just up the hill and further down the trail at the falls on Valley Spring Creek. The creek feeds into Inks Lake. The rocks and cliffs all around Devil’s Waterhole and surrounding the creek have beautiful pink veins running through them. This is called Valley Spring Gneiss (pronounced “nice”) and is formed from recrystalized sedimentary rocks.
My sister and her daughter camped with us for a few nights. My sister and I had not been to the falls together since we were kids. We reminisced about riding down the falls in tubes and camping at Inks when we were young. On the last day of our stay, our Mom and Dad joined us. We all hiked up to the falls together, remembering our past adventures at Inks Lake and made a few new memories, too.
Overall, we had a great trip, but with Spring Break, the park was packed and we had several annoying neighbors. Another important camping lesson for me to learn is how not to lash out irrationally at rude and inconsiderate neighboring campers and if I do, who really wins in the end. Early on, I was friendly and reasonable. By the end of the week, I resembled a militant maniac at war defending my campsite. I actually started thinking of ways I could use my gear to form a barricade of sorts around the campsite. I can’t really say this was my finest moment at embracing all that nature has to offer. There will always be people around who will interfere with important moments. I’ve been on both sides of that equation. The question is, how much power will I give them?
Camping is not always the “getting away from it all” experience that I’d like it to be, but I still love it just the same. For me, it’s necessary. Spring Break brings it’s own challenges with people who have different ideas of what the camping experience should be like, but how do I keep loving something with the same passion in spite of the flaws? Sometimes you can live with the flaws, and sometimes you have to walk away. I think I’ve learned what’s worth holding on to and what’s worth letting go. The lesson is accepting what I do love entirely and learning not to let a few irritations ruin the entire experience. I’ll let you know if I figure it out.
In the meantime, maybe learning a little backpacking wouldn’t hurt, either.